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Thread: Previous planning staff mistakes

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jun 2007
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    Colorado
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    Previous planning staff mistakes

    I work in a jurisdiction that hasnít had the best record in professionalism. To be fair, actual professional planning hasnít been around that long either: about 25 years or so. Anyway, itís been appearing to me that many of the planning/zoning issues that come through our office are issues that resulted from badly or poorly or incompletely thought through applications or advice by previous staff. I am reluctant to cast aspersions on that same said previous staff (in part because my successors might want to do the same thing) but I canít help sometimes thinking to myself, ďWhat were they thinking?Ē Or not thinking, as the case may be.

    These are issues that todayís staff has to spend a great deal of time cleaning up. Things like unrecorded plat approvals, conditional re-zonings (I know Ė WTF!) and conditional plat approvals (I know Ė WTF!), poorly or incompletely processed use permits and actual violations of state statutes by staff. The worst example of a statute violation is a wholesale re-write of the zoning and subdivision code by a predecessor that obviously didnít know what he were doing. The document was full of holes, inconsistencies and conflicts and weíve been struggling with it for 10 years. (We just now fixed it by another wholesale re-write and our electeds are paying more attention).

    It just seems to me that more than half of what I do involves cleaning up messes made by previous staff. To those of you in the public sector, do you have the same experience? How much time do you have to spend re-processing or otherwise fixing past staff planner mistakes?

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Yeah....zoning approval (for setbcaks and such) at a previous job were done in the building dept., and apparently the dept. director in the 70s didn't really care about whether a house foundation was 12 inches into the setback, so when I came along in 2002, we had to process tons of variances for reasonable house additions because the past schmoe had approved the placement of alot of non-conforming houses.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Nov 2002
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    USA
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    A lot of the issues we deal with relate to previous planners and commissions who dropped a 1960's era zoning code down on a 300 year old town. Lots of townspeople have grown accustomed to our regulations even though they're often at odds with how the town developed. So even common sense changes are met with resistance.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Feb 1998
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    Greensburg, Kansas
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    In each job I had, I inherited zoning ordinances from the 70s. I have never had a problem saying "I don't care what was done in the past; here is how we will do it from now on". The new, legal, justifiable way is more consistent. And it is usually better for the customer.

    Sadly, in my last three positions, I was replaced with non-professionals. The cycle starts anew.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Colorado
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    Yeah, our zoning code was adopted in the early 70's and wasn't very well thought through but I would guess that many newly adopted zoning codes, of that era, are assembled by jurisdictions that often didn't know what they wanted or didn't have the professional input they needed. They may have also copied other jurisdictions that have different issues and considerations to deal with. On top of that and until recently, non-professionals administered the code leaving the current professional staff to clean it all up.

    Until recently, this jurisdiction figured it was ok to approve plats and let the plat preparer record them - whenever they are completed (or whenever they like). We don't do that anymore. We don't schedule it for approval unless it is complete and fully signed - and we walk it over for recording. We've had too many instances of approved plats that didn't actually get recorded. We can't issue building permits because the lots aren't actually platted - just approved for it. Who do you figure has to fix that?

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